What Happens To My Nipples During A Breast Lift Or Breast Reduction?
People often ask ‘What happens to my nipples during a breast lift or breast reduction?’. It is commonly believed that the nipples are removed during a breast lift or breast reduction and then put back on at a higher place on the breast mound once the extra skin and volume from the lower part of the breast is reduced.
However, whilst this is certainly one of the recognised techniques for breast reduction, it is usually reserved for massive breast reductions and is not something that is commonly performed during one of the more standard breast reductions or breast lift procedures.
When the nipple is removed it is known as a free nipple graft and when doing this, there can be problems:
- with healing of the nipple
- often the nipple itself lacks projection
- the pigmentation of the nipple skin may not be normal
- and there is always altered sensation in the nipple.
For these reasons it is usually better to keep the nipple attached to the breast on what we call a pedicle which is a stalk of tissue which maintains a nerve and blood supply to the nipple and so gives a greater chance of it healing and having improved sensation compared to a free nipple graft.
However, there is still a risk of altered sensation and the possibility of healing problems even when a pedicle is used.
When performing the surgery, we cannot see the blood vessels and the nerves travelling in the pedicle and so we have to leave enough volume attached going to the nipple and hope that the blood supply and nerve supply is sufficient.
Similarly, there will be milk ducts in the pedicle and so you may be able to breastfeed following a breast lift or breast reduction; however, this is not guaranteed because of all the tissue around the pedicle is released and removed in order to allow the nipple to be moved into a higher position on the chest.
It can be a balance especially when doing a very big breast reduction between removing enough tissue from around the pedicle in order to give a significant reduction in the volume of the breast, but not too much so that the blood or the nerve supply is compromised.
This is something that comes with experience and is why it is important to have a full discussion with your surgeon pre-operatively around the sort of results you can expect to achieve.
We will not be able to tell you the exact cup size you are likely to be, because this is not something that is possible to predict, but we will be able to give you a realistic expectation of what might be possible and what your chances of needing a free nipple graft are.
Breast reduction and breast lift can be revolutionary operations and transformational, not only in terms of the cosmetic outcomes they deliver, but also the functional aspect by removing the weight and lifting the breasts on the chest to make them so much more comfortable.
However, moving the nipple is an integral part of the operation, and so you need to be fully aware of the potential for scarring and complications so that you can make an informed decision as to whether surgery might be right for you.
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